Life in the Global Public Domain: Response to Commentaries on the UN Guiding Principles and the Proposed Treaty on Business and Human Rights
11 Pages Posted: 25 Jan 2015
Date Written: January 23, 2015
This paper addresses the foundational logics of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and comments on the recent decision by the UN Human Rights Council to commence treaty negotiations on this subject. As the author of the Guiding Principles, the paper reiterates the important contributions of Amartya Sen to my understanding of human rights. Sen insists that human rights are much more than laws’ antecedents or progeny. Indeed, he states, such a view threatens to “incarcerate” the social logics and processes other than law that drive public recognition of rights. My work, including the Guiding Principles, has sought to contribute to the freeing of human rights discourse and practice from these conceptual shackles, by drawing on the interests, capacities and engagement of states, market actors, civil society, and the intrinsic power of ideational and normative factors. Moreover, now that negotiations on an international legal instrument are about to commence, my sole concerns are that they build on what has already been achieved, not undermine it; and that the effort be meaningful and actionable where it matters most: not in legal treatises, journals of ethics, or the mesmerizing effects that the word “binding” has on the critical faculties of many committed activists, but in the daily lives of people — and not in some far-off promised future that may or may not ever materialize, but starting in the here and now.
Keywords: multinational corporations, human rights, global governance, regulatory policy, international law-making
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